1. TE Jimmy Graham (New Orleans)
Jimmy Graham was the Saints’ leading receiver in 2011, catching 99 passes for 1310 yards and 11 touchdowns, but injuries led to a league leading 15 drops in 2012 and he “only” caught 85 passes for 982 yards and 9 touchdowns in 15 games in 2012. He should get back over 1000 this season though.
Projection: 82 catches for 1020 receiving yards 9 touchdowns (156 pts standard, 238 pts PPR)
2. TE Rob Gronkowski (New England)
Sure he’s a major injury risk, but Gronkowski has scored 36 times in his last 35 games. He’s worth his current ADP in the 4th round even if you can only get 10-12 games out of him. Tight end is a deep enough position that you can get by with a TE2 for a few weeks, but it’s thin enough at the top that Gronk could easily lead the position in points per game played, as he has in each of the last 2 seasons.
Projection: 60 catches for 850 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns (145 pts standard, 205 pts PPR)
3. TE Greg Olsen (Carolina)
Greg Olsen was a 1st round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and finally came into his own last season, catching a career high 69 passes for a career high 843 yards and 5 touchdowns, serving as a very good secondary receiver for Cam Newton, including 35 catches for 448 yards and 4 touchdowns in the 2nd half of the season. With Smith expected to decline a little and Newton expected to improve, Olsen could even surpass last year’s numbers.
Projection: 71 catches for 880 receiving yards 8 touchdowns (136 pts standard, 207 pts PPR)
4. TE Vernon Davis (San Francisco)
Vernon Davis caught just 41 passes for 548 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2012 and was even worse in the 2ndhalf of the year as he didn’t show any chemistry with new quarterback Colin Kaepernick, catching 16 passes for 174 yards and 1 touchdown in the final 8 games of the regular season. However, that changed in the post-season, as he caught 12 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown in 3 games. With another off-season working with Kaepernick, Davis should continue that kind of production and is the favorite to lead the team in receiving with Michael Crabtree out. He and Boldin are the only veteran receivers they have and Davis is simply more talented, younger, and more familiar with Kaepernick.
Projection: 58 catches for 900 receiving yards 7 touchdowns (132 pts standard, 190 pts PPR)
5. TE Jason Witten (Dallas)
Witten is one of the most dependable players in the NFL regardless of position. He hasn’t missed a game since his rookie year in 2003, signing a waiver to play through a ruptured spleen week 1 of last season and his worst season since his rookie year was 2006, when he still caught 64 passes for 754 yards and 1 touchdowns. Since 2004, his 2nd season in the league, he’s averaged 86 catches for 956 yards and 5 touchdowns per season and only going into his age 31 season coming off a career high in catches, I see no reason why that wouldn’t continue.
Projection: 88 catches for 980 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns (128 pts, 216 pts PPR)
6. TE Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta)
Tony Gonzalez, meanwhile, is even older, heading into his age 37 season and his 2.7 yards after catch per catch were even less than White’s. His mere 10.0 yards per catch also shows a lack of explosiveness and while he was a great possession receiver last year, he did have 13 fewer catches the year before and 23 fewer two years before that. I think it’s much more likely that his production falls off drastically than White’s.
Projection: 70 catches for 770 receiving yards 6 touchdowns (113 pts standard, 183 pts PPR)
7. TE Brandon Myers (NY Giants)
Giants tight ends always seem to be productive in the passing game, regardless of who they are. Tight ends coach Mike Pope is a big part of the reason for this, as is the offensive system and Eli Manning’s tendency to throw to the tight end. Myers caught 79 passes for 804 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 101 targets last season with Carson Palmer throwing him the ball. He could match that, or even exceed that.
Projection: 74 catches for 790 receiving yards 5 touchdowns (109 pts standard, 183 pts PPR)
8. TE Jermichael Finley (Green Bay)
Jermichael Finley closed last season very well, catching 26 catches for 279 yards in the final 5 games of the season, but we’ve seen in the past he’s capable of being dominant for a short stretch of time. What we haven’t seen is him maintain that level of play over a full season as his 2011 season, in which he caught 55 passes for 767 yards and 8 touchdowns, remains his best season in 5 years in the league. I don’t expect anything different from him as in 2013.
Projection: 57 catches for 690 receiving yards 6 touchdowns (105 pts standard, 162 pts PPR)
9. TE Owen Daniels (Houston)
Owen Daniels is a very good pass catching tight end when he’s on the field and he’s only missed 2 games of the past 2 seasons, after missing 13 in the previous 2. In a weaker year for tight ends, he’s offers good value. He should be around the 62 catches for 716 yards and 5 touchdowns he had last season.
Projection: 65 catches for 740 receiving yards 5 total touchdowns (104 pts standard, 169 pts PPR)
10. TE Antonio Gates (San Diego)
8/6/13: Gates gets a minor stock up with Alexander going down, but like Floyd I still don’t expect much.
Antonio Gates looks like he’s in the beginning of the end of his career. Despite plenty of opportunity, Gates managed just 49 catches for 538 yards and 7 touchdowns last season, despite actually playing in 15 games for the first time since 2009. He has a history of injury problems, missing 10 games in the last 3 seasons and being limited in countless others and, going into his age 33 season, it looks like it’s all caught up with him. He’s unlikely to improve much upon those numbers. His biggest impact will be around the goal line, as he’s still managed 24 touchdowns over 38 games over the last 3 seasons. He hasn’t had fewer than 7 touchdowns since his rookie year in 2003.
Projection: 54 catches for 610 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns (103 pts standard, 157 pts PPR)
11. TE Jared Cook (St. Louis)
Jared Cook was underutilized in Tennessee and put up good per snap numbers as a receiver despite never really having great quarterback play. He has 1718 career receiving yards on 1057 career routes run, a rate of 1.63 yards per route run. For comparison, Owen Daniels had 1.63 yards per route run this season, good for 11th in the NFL. However, he doesn’t block, which is a big part of the reason why he was only a part-time player in Tennessee and he’s still relatively unproven. The Rams are paying a lot of money to find out if he can be an elite tight end in the right situation. They’ll give him every opportunity to live up to his contract, but I don’t think he will.
Projection: 45 catches for 700 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns (100 pts standard, 145 pts PPR)
12. TE Fred Davis (Washington)
Tight end Fred Davis went down with a season ending torn Achilles early in their 7th game of the season. He was brought back on a one year prove it deal that could pay dividends if he’s healthy. He’s only played in 18 full games over the past 2 seasons thanks to injury and suspension, but he has caught 82 passes for 1110 yards and 3 touchdowns in those 18 games, despite playing 12 of them with Rex Grossman as his quarterback. We’ll see how he bounces back after his injury, but he has great natural receiving ability.
Projection: 55 catches for 750 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns (99 pts standard, 154 pts PPR)
13. TE Martellus Bennett (Chicago)
Bennett was a 2nd round pick in 2008 by the Cowboys, but he was stuck as a pure blocker behind Jason Witten in 4 years in Dallas. However, he excelled as a blocker and then in his first year as a starter with the Giants, he caught 55 passes for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns. He’s not a great pass catcher, but he’s one of the best all-around tight ends in the NFL. He should have similar receiving numbers this season.
Projection: 50 catches for 600 receiving yards 6 touchdowns (96 pts standard, 146 pts PPR)
14. TE Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati)
Gresham has made 2 Pro Bowls in his career, but he’s an overrated player who drops a lot of passes (10 last year, including 2 in their playoff loss), commits a lot of penalties (9), and doesn’t run block well. The Bengals brought in Tyler Eifert for that reason and will run more two-tight end sets, which will cut into Gresham’s targets. Look elsewhere.
Projection: 53 catches for 650 receiving yards 5 touchdowns (95 pts, 148 pts PPR)
15. TE Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota)
In his 3rd year in the league, Rudolph could more than the 53 passes he caught last season and could average more than 9.3 yards per catch, but he’s unlikely to score a touchdown on 16.9% of his catches, especially on a team that scored just 18 touchdowns through the air last season (Rudolph had 9). Don’t get suckered in with the touchdown numbers. He’s a talented tight end, but his quarterback situation makes him a mere TE2.
Projection: 57 catches for 600 receiving yards 5 touchdowns (90 pts standard, 147 pts PPR)